Flying in the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Heavy Bomber "909"

During the 2nd week of June 2000 the Collings Foundation Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "909" US Army Air Force SN 44-83575 (N93012) came to the Pacific Northwest stopping at Salem Oregon and then at Aurora Airport south of Portland, Oregon. Aurora is located 26 miles south of Portland alongside I-5 just below Wilsonville. It has a 5,500 foot runway so the a/c could easily land and takeoff.

In 2005 (as well as in 2001, 2002, 2003) I was again able to take some different pictures - but in 2005 I took video for the first time - of the B-17 and B-24. In 2007 I got videos of the B-25 Mitchell.

Cut-a-way drawing of the Boeing 1944 version B-17G Flying Fortress
This links to a 4 meg version of the cut-a-way
drawing of the B-17-G Flying Fortress.

From unknown company that no longer exists this is a cut-a-way drawing of a B-17G. This is a 4 MEG file so save it locally if you want to reference it.

B-17 Flying Fortress Possible Bomb Loads

B-17 Bomb load-outs showing quantity of bombs and weight of each bomb (in US pounds) of an iron bomb.

B-17 F & G: 2-2000, 2-1600, 2-1000, 12-500, 16-300, 16-250, 24-100 (from AN-01-1B-40 B-17 weight and balance, Army Manual 1943). I have read of them loading 36 100 lb fragmention bombs in a late 1944 against an airfield.

They would also at times vary the bombs being carried in an raid. There is a movie clip showing 6 500 lb pounds going out of the bomb bay followed by a single 2000 lb bomb.

The limitation on the quantity of bombs that could be carried in the bomb bay was the number of bomb shackles that could be placed in the bomb bay racks.

In special cases they could strap bombs onto external racks on the wings for short missions. Rarely done.

Which is better?

The B-17 compared to the B-24 a quick comparison.

Un-mistakeable After All These Years

The Boeing B-17G is likely the most recognized aircraft of World War II (maybe the Junkers JU-87 Stuka could share this distinction.) World War Two caused the creation of many unique aircraft but the "Flying Fortress" was the most photographed heavy US bomber from 1939 thru 1943. The B-17-C/D models were flying before WW2 in significant numbers and the E/F models started the daylight bombing campaign in England during the first two years of the war. The 1943 documentary movie "Memphis Belle" also helped gain this aircraft wide recognition.

The biggest noticeable difference between the early models and the G (to most people) is the addition of the chin turret and the removal of the cheek guns and the radio operator's gun dorasl that were present on the earlier E & F models.

There are not many Fortresses still flying (12 I believe) and with "909" being so close to home I decided it was well worth the money to go flying in it. I took photos on its arrival day (Sunday) and on Tuesday when I climbed aboard, smelled and heard the Pratt & Whitney's fire up, and went flying in the aircraft around the Willamette valley for 40 minutes.

"The first mission you go on is an enlightening one."
"You hear about what you're going to see, but until you see it for yourself and watch that stuff come up at you and explode all around you -- until it happens, you can only guess what it's going to be like."
- Wilbur Richardson ball turret gunner, 8th AF , 30 Missions

Color Negatives (Royal Gold 100) Photographs

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress 909 port side view of the heavy bomberBoeing B-17G Flying Fortress "909" as seen from the port side. I took this photograph of the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress "909" while under the wing of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator "All American" aka "The Dragon and his Tail" which was also on tour that year.

 

 B-17G Flying Fortess head-on as seen by many German pilotsHead on view of the Boeing B-17G "909" This view of the Flying Fortress shows the chin and top turret angles of view quite well. I was there at 6 AM in the morning so I could get pictures of the B-17 and B-24 aircraft just after sunrise.

 

  B-17G bomber as seen from the starboard side B-17G 909 Starboard side In this starboard view of the B-17 you can see the waist, top, tail, chin and ball turret positions quite easily. The B-24J "The Dragon and His Tail" is behind the Boeing at Aurora airport.

 

 

  View as seen by a Bombadier out of the Flying FortressView as seen by a Bombardier out the nose of a Flying Fortress The whole purpose of the Fortress was to allow the bombardier to drop bombs on an enemy. The 9 other men inside a B-17 were really there to get this guy over the target. Here you can see the Norden bomb sight. I saw a Norden Bomb Sight open and running at the McMinnville Museum during the 398th BG (H) B-17 reunion.

 

 

 View out left from the radio operator compartment of a B-17G Flying FortressB-17G Flying Fortress as seen from outside when I stuck my camera, and my head, out of the Radio Operator's dorsal compartment of the Fortress to get this picture. At 165 MPH the wind is really strong and I had to brace myself well in order to hold the camera steady. 

 

 

 Boeing Fortress bomber as seen from inside the Top Turret looking aftB-17G Top Turret view aft View from the top turret looking aft as the plane banks left over the Willamette valley.

 

 

 

Slides (Elite Chrome 100) Pictures

Since I took two cameras with me I also took slides of during the trip also. Therefore I have a set of slides of the same basic views.

B-17G Flying Fortress bomber 909 on landing approach at Aurora airport in OregonB-17G 909 Landing Approach at Aurora  909 coming in for a landing at Aurora airport on Sunday in light rain. The B-17 was not designed as an all weather aircraft but with full IFR (instrument flight rules) equipment many a pilot flew it at night and in clouds all over the world.

 

B-17G 909 Nose Art on the Flying Fortress B-17G 909 Nose Art  Nose art adorned many an a/c during the second world war on all sides. Here you can see the typical artwork that went into such a decoration on aircraft.

 

 

B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber showing the nose and the 50 caliber armamentB-17G 909 Nose  Nose and engine detail of the B-17G Flying Fortress. The chin turret was initially a field modification done in 1943 then later was standard on the production line from the G model onwards.

 

 

B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber view out of the top turret looking port sideB-17G Top Turret view slight offset to the right as the plane banks left. The guns had an interrupter gear in them so as not to fire when the guns traversed the tail. Mechanical means also ensured that the guns never could be depressed to hit their own aircraft wings - but that did not stop them from shooting and hitting other friendly aircraft!

 

 

B-17G Boeing Flying Fortress view from the top turret looking AftB-17G Top Turret view looking Aft  . The gunner was also the crew chief / flight engineer on the Boeing (and usually on most other US bombers).

 

 

View form the radio compartment forward to the top turret of the Boeing B-17G Flying FortressB-17G view from outside looking forward while in the air when I put my camera outside the Radio operator's compartment. The Top Turret is seen with the reflection of the clouds on the forward plexiglas.

 

Slides (Kodachrome 200) Images

B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber 50 caliber waist gun positon B-17G Waist gun  There is a very limited field of fire coverage for a waist gunner. Later on in the war they flew with only 1 waist gunner on board.

 

 

B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber Pilot controlsB-17G Pilot controls The sky is washed out due to exposing the film to get the proper exposure for the gauges. I did not want to use my flash while they are flying! People who have flown the Flying Fortress heavy bomber has said it was a delight to fly and very easy on the controls. Very different than flying a Consolidate B-24 heavy bomber.

 

looking out the co-pilot's cockpit window at engines #3 and #4 on the B-17B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber engines 3 and 4 seen from the co-pilots window. The engines on a B-17 were very reliable over all. They could take lots of battle damage and still run successfully. Engine fires were a whole different problem since the fuel cells are right behind the engines.

 

view out the cockpit of a B-17G Flying FortressB-17G Flying Fortress cockpit view while flying over the Willamette Valley. This exposure was set to see the sky correctly so most of the gauges are dark. 

 

view out the starboard waist gun on a B-17B-17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber 50 caliber cheek gun on the starboard side. These were later removed once the chin turret was standard equipment since they had such a narrow field of fire due to the engines and the physical space limitations inside the nose.

 

Radio compartment of a B-17B-17G Radio compartment of a Flying Fortress heavy bomber had a CW (continuous wave) and voice radios in this area. Initially there were only 4 voice channels that you could talk on in WWII radios. Only 1 of which a fighter had in common in which to talk with the bombers. Morse code ruled the day in long range communications.

 

Other B-17 Flying Fortress Images

909 is not the only B-17 that I have pictures of. I've been to England quite a few times and I have some of the Sally B, which is based at Duxford.

B-17 Flying Fortress Sally B at Duxford, EnglandB-17 Flying Fortress Sally B at Duxford, England in 1998. This aircraft doubled as the "Memphis Belle" when making the World War II movie "Memphis Belle" in 1991. A trick of movie makers is to paint one side of the aircraft with one set of markings, and paint the other side completely different. So that way it can act as two planes.

The main enemy of B-17s throughout the war were German Bf 109 Messerschmitts and I have a page of pictures of them also.

B-17 in air = Strong Wind

Now, one thing I found out is that no matter how clean your camera is, once you stick it outside of a B-17 that is doing 160 MPH then any dust inside your camera WILL be disturbed!

I had cleaned all my cameras and lens before going up but after I put it outside the plane to take a picture dust showed up. So while flying I had to re-clean the cameras again. Some of the photos have dust marks on them. Luckily, there is a good firm here in Portland (U-Develop / Digicraft) that can scan negatives or slides, clean off the dust from the scan, and then create a new negative / slide as needed. For any reprints requested that is what I will do first so as to get rid of the dust before doing any prints.

My picture price sheet lists the cost to purchase a framed or unframed print.

You too can go flying in the Collings Foundation B-17 or B-24.

Two other outfits lets you fly in B-17s; Commerative Air Force (CAF www.B17.Org ) and they have two aircraft "Texas Raiders" and "Sentimental Journey".

EAA has one aircraft that it tours and it is "Aluminum Overcast".

All photographs are available for purchase.
All text and photographs © 1976-2014 Tom Philo, 17502 SW Kimmel Ct, Beaverton, Or 97007-6877. Phone / Fax: 503-591-3227. See permitted uses of photos on the copyright and disclosure statement page.
No photograph can be used for commercial purposes without permission.
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